Boulder City Councilwoman Mary Young wants to know how feasible it would be to require DNA samples from dogs, and create a registry so that, through DNA analysis, poop left on city trails could be traced to dog owners.
She’s not suggesting every dog in Boulder be tested (yet) — just the estimated 35,000 with so-called “green tags” that allow them to romp off-leash on some of the city’s trails and greenspaces.
Young has asked that the issue be discussed at tonight’s City Council meeting, the Boulder Daily Camera reports. (Yes, it happens to be an April Fools Day meeting, but nobody’s joking here.)
I would hope Boulder looks not just at whether it can be done (it can), but at whether it should be — that city leaders consider, in addition to the price tag of such a venture, the ethics and implications and utter goofiness of it.
There’s a lot of dog-related technology I don’t like (click the banner at the top of this page for one example) and poop-detection technology is near the top of the list.
Not just because of its Orwellian overtones, not just because it’s heavy-handed, dictatorial, silly, creepy, intrusive and expensive. It’s also because technology, unleashed, has a habit of oozing beyond the boundaries of its originally intended purpose — DNA-testing of dog poop being just such a case — and spreading into ever scarier realms.
The day could still come when your tossed cigarette butt, un-recycled soda can or expectorated phlegm could be traced back to you, which, come to think of it, might be a better use of DNA technology than that being offered by the dog poop sleuths.
Declaring war on poop, and bringing out technology’s big guns, is overkill. Especially when the real solution can be achieved by simply bending over and picking up what your dog leaves behind.
In case you haven’t been following our posts on this issue, here’s how it works:
Deciding unscooped dog poop is simply intolerable, homeowners associations, apartment complexes or government entities sign up with a company called PooPrints, which sends them the supplies needed for residents to take swabs from the cheeks of their dogs. Those are sent to Tennessee, and a doggie DNA registry is created.
After that, any pile of poop that is found can be gathered, packaged and sent to a lab in Tennessee, where it can be unpackaged and tested and, by comparing DNA markers, matched to an individual dog, assuming that dog’s DNA is in the registry.
The company lets management know who the poopetrator was, and the owner is fined $100 or so — or, if a repeat offender, perhaps told they and/or their dog should move somewhere else. Thereby a community is made safe from scofflaws, as well as, say, a grandmother whose back might have been hurting too much one day to pick up every last dropping left by her Shih Tzu.
Here in my current home state, North Carolina, apartment complexes in Winston-Salem and Wilmington are among the growing number of property management companies and government entities turning to PooPrints.
Yes, dog poop can be hazardous to our health, and harmful to the environment.
So can the feces of all the non-domesticated animals we live among, but don’t feel compelled to prosecute for pooping.
So, too, can the dumpage of corporate entities, like the thousands of tons of coal ash spilled into the Dan River by Duke Energy, coating 70 miles of the river with toxic sludge.
That’s a little harder to pick up after, and, I’d suggest, at least as deserving of society’s consternation and oversight and vigilance as dog poop — even if punishing the culprit won’t make them change their ways. (Big companies, unlike the average dog owner, can hire lawyers to avoid fines, and, if unsuccessful, they just pass the costs along to their customers.)
Finding clean sources of energy — that’s a use of technology I like. Using DNA to solve murders (and clear the wrongly convicted) seems a good use, too.
But gathering, packaging and mailing dog poop so technicians in Tennessee can comb through it and test it, by comparison, seems a silly use of our technological muscles.
In Colorado, Boulder officials say dog waste on public trails is one of the most common complaints the city receives, so it’s not surprising that they’d turn to a company that claims to have the solution.
Eric Mayer, director of business development for BioPet Vet Lab in Knoxville, Tenn., said the company’s PooPrint service is used by private property management companies in 45 states and in Canada. Franchises are popping up all over, like Burger Kings.
So far, the company doesn’t have contracts with any municipalities, but officials have been in talks with a half dozen different local governments. He said he expects to sign the first municipal PooPrints contract with Ipswich, Mass., sometime this year.
Maybe, if poop detection continues to catch on, it would be good for the economy. Maybe, you too could have a fulfilling career as a dog poop laboratory technician.
But there are far better ways to spend our time and money, and far bigger problems more deserving of our rage. Between all the emotion, and all the technology, we seem to forget that we can simply …
Pick it up!
(Top photo, fake poop question mark, from Big Mouth Toys; bottom photo, sludge from the Dan River spill, courtesy of Dan River Basin Association)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 1st, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: amok, animals, apartments, biopet, boulder, clean, coal ash, colorado, communities, dan river, detection, dna, dog, dog owners, dog related technology, dogs, duke energy, dump, dumping, enforcement, ethics, feces, fine, franchises, genetics, identify, laboratory, markers, north carolina, owners, pets, poop, pooprints, questions, registry, responsibility, samples, scoop, shit, spill, swabs, technology, waste, wilmington, winston-salem
A sheriff’s deputy in Park County, Colorado, has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into allegations that, while off duty, he shot and killed a neighbor’s 16-year-old German shepherd.
The Park County Sheriff’s Office said it has started an internal investigation and has also asked the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office to conduct an independent investigation into the shooting of the dog, named Shiva.
The dog was in the family’s driveway in Bailey, an hour southwest of Denver, when she was shot.
Shiva’s owners were attending a wedding in Denver on Saturday when neighbors said they saw Deputy Matthew Jackmon — who lived next door to the family — shoot their dog.
According to ABC 7 News in Denver, neighbors in the Friendship Ranch subdivision told the family they saw the deputy poke the elderly dog with a stick a few times, walk back to his house, return with a gun and shoot the dog in the head. They said he then picked up the dog’s body and dumped it in a nearby ditch.
Once the family came home, they were approached by Jackmon who said the blood in their driveway was from a coyote he shot while they were away.
After a search, the dog’s body was found in a ditch.
“She was in pain, I mean she’s old and we weren’t ready to put her down yet,” owner Laura Brown told Fox News in Denver.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 5th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, bailey, colorado, deputy, dog, dogs, driveway, german shepherd, investigation, killed, law enforcement, officer, old dog, park county, pets, police, sheriff, shiva, shooting, shot
What’s a working dog to do? You learn your trade, hone your skills, toil away, only to find out that the world around you has evolved to a point where those skills are no longer much appreciated.
It’s why you can’t find a blacksmith too easily nowadays. It’s what happened to the elevator operator, the milkman, and, at least from my biased and disgruntled point of view, the newspaper reporter.
Such too was the case with Phelan, a marijuana-detecting Labrador retriever in the employ of the police department in Lakewood, Colorado.
With the passage by Colorado voters of Initiative 502 — legalizing the recreational use of small amounts of marijuana — the skill Phelan was best known for is no longer much in demand there.
In fact, his biggest asset has become a liability, the News Tribune reports.
Phelan was handed his pink slip this week and sold to the state Department of Corrections, where, in his new job, his inability to distinguish between marijuana and other drugs won’t be a problem — all drugs being illegal behind bars.
The same story is playing out in Washington state, where voters also legalized marijuana use, and where police departments are figuring out whether to cease training new dogs in marijuana detection, put their existing dogs through ”pot desensitization” training or just retire them and send them out to pasture, according to the Associated Press.
Take it from me, pasture sucks. Dogs and people, I think, prefer having a mission.
But Phelan’s mission, at least in the two states where moderate amounts of marijuana are now permitted, no longer much needs to be accomplished. Worse yet, alerting to small amounts of marijuana could mess up prosecutions in cases involving other, still illegal, drugs.
Say Phelan alerted to drugs in the trunk of a car. Phelan’s inability to distinguish between heroin and marijuana — or at least specify to his handler to which he is alerting — means any subsequent search by officers could have been based on Phelan detecting an entirely legal drug, in an entirely legal amount.
That means the “probable cause” the search was based on might not have really existed, and that means any evidence of illegal drugs subsequently found in the search would likely be tossed out.
Thus Phelan, unless he were to be retrained to drop marijuana-detecting from his repertoire — not easily accomplished — has ended up going from cutting edge law enforcement tool to an old school has been.
Drug detecting dogs — traditionally trained to alert to the smell of marijuana, heroin, crack cocaine, methamphetamine and cocaine – can’t specify what they’re smelling, much less the quantity it might be in.
In Washington, the new law decriminalized possession of up to an ounce of the drug for individuals over 21, and barred the growth and distribution of marijuana outside the state-approved system.
Dog trainer Fred Helfers, of the Pacific Northwest Detection Dog Association, said abandoning pot training is a “knee-jerk” reaction: “What about trafficking? What about people who have more than an ounce?” Still, he’s helping departments who want to put their dogs through ”extinction training” to change what substances dogs alert to. That takes about 30 days, followed by a prolonged period of reinforcement.
The Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission removed detecting marijuana from its canine team certification standards this year, and no longer requires dogs be trained to detect it, but some others say, given large amounts of pot are still illegal, it can still be a useful skill for a dog to have.
In Pierce County, prosecutor Mark Lindquist believes new dogs are the answer — dogs trained in sniffing out the other drugs, but not marijuana. He’s not convinced dogs can be re-trained. “We’ll need new dogs to alert on substances that are illegal,” he told the Associated Press.
Other police departments, like Tacoma’s, aren’t making any changes.
“The dog doesn’t make the arrest, the officer does,” said spokesperson Loretta Cool. “A canine alert is just one piece of evidence an officer considers when determining whether a crime has been committed.”
Phelan was one of two drug-sniffing dogs on the police force in Lakewood, Colorado. He’ll be replaced by Kira, a Belgian Malinois who was trained not to alert when she smells marijuana. Duke, a Labrador retriever mix with the old-school training, will remain on the force for now.
Phelan, though, will be moving on, and I sympathize with the crime-fighting Lab.
His new gig in the slammer is clearly a step down the career ladder — not unlike going from being a newspaper reporter detecting corruption and injustice to an unpaid blogger who mostly (but not entirely) regurgitates material already written.
And, for Phelan, there’s the added insult of being sold for the lowly sum of one dollar.
Surely — old school as his talents may be – he was worth more than that.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 12th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alert, cocaine, colorado, court, criminal justice, detect, detection, dog, dogs, drug-sniffing, drugs, heroin, job, K-9, k9, lakewood, law, law enforcement, marijuana, marijuana laws, mission, newspapers, police, police dogs, problems, prosecutors, purpose, reporters, searches, skills, sniffing, tacoma, useless, washington, working dogs
Since January of 2010, Houston police have gunned down 187 dogs, killing 121 of them.
And last year alone, law enforcement officers in Houston and Harris County shot more dogs than New York City police officers shot in 2010 and 2011 combined.
All of those shooting were deemed by police to have been justified, but it’s not too hard to find families that disgree with that.
The KHOU 11 News I-Team did, and its report this week is more evidence that, across the country, requiring police to be trained in dealing with dogs could save dogs, and their families, a lot of pain.
Colorado passed a law requiring that, and it was signed by the governor this week.
The KHOU report, when it looked at the police-involved dog shootings for all of Harris County found at least 228 dogs had been shot by officers and deputies since 2010, 142 of them fatally.
“If the dog turns and comes at a citizen, or the deputy, they have all right to use lethal force,” explained Dpt. Thomas Gilliland of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
Records show Harris County deputies shot 38 canines in the last three-and-a-half years.
When asked if all those shootings were justified, Gilliland said: “The justification is, in that matter, and at that moment the deputy had to choose the decision to use lethal force against that animal.”
Sgt. Joseph Guerra, who works as a cruelty investigator for the Houston Humane Society, said it teaches some officers how to safety interact with threatening dogs. But the training isn’t mandated for all officers.
“A lot of times, officers are not sent to training to get that type of certification to feel comfortable enough to deal with these animals,” he said. “We need to get those officers involved in some mandated training in how to defend before going to deadly force.”
The Arlington and Fort Worth Police Departments started mandatory dog training for officers last fall, and state lawmakers are considering a bill that would require the training for officers across Texas.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 17th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: aggressive, animals, arlington, behavior, canines, colorado, dangerous, deputies, dogs, fatal, fort worth, harris county, houston, interact, killed, law enforcement, new york, officers, pets, police, police shooting dogs, shoot, shot, texas, threatening, training
But, if its lawmakers did, they might find some sound thinking behind Colorado’s new law, mandating police officers get some training in how to deal with dogs they encounter on duty — other than just shooting them.
If we were suggesting, we’d suggest every state look into doing something similar, or even better, than the Colorado law. It requires officers undergo three hours of online training in dog behavior, and how to recognize when a dog truly poses a threat.
While Iowa, at first glance, doesn’t seem to have experienced quite as many questionable shootings as Colorado, there have been at least a few instances a year of dogs being shot and killed by police.
“He wasn’t a ferocious dog,” she said of Tank, her border collie-pit bull mix. “He never bit anyone. He was only a year-and-a-half old. He probably thought the police officer was playing with him,” she told the Quad City Times.
Police Chief Phil Redington said the dog attacked the officer and deadly force was an appropriate response.
On Saturday, Williams’ two dogs, Tank and Cleo, escaped when a gust of wind blew open her door. They had wandered several blocks when they began barking at some dogs at another home.
The owners of that home tried to shoo the two dogs away, and called police when they wouldn’t leave.
The dogs were corraled on the back deck, hemmed in by lawn chairs, when police, and Williams, arrived.
“When he (Tank) saw me, he jumped over one of the chairs, and the officer tried to grab him,” said Williams, who managed to grab hold of her other dog.
The police chief said Tank jumped at the officer “snapping its teeth. The officer brushed the dog away with his arm and the dog attacked again, jumping and snapping at the officer’s face. The officer kicked the dog away, at which time the dog bit his shin, causing minor lacerations. The officer removed his gun and fired at the dog twice. The dog was approximately two feet away when the officer fired in a downward direction.”
“I keep playing the scenario over and over in my mind,” Williams said. ”I blame myself. They shouldn’t have gotten out. Why did he have to shoot him, though? Why not a stun gun or pepper spray?”
Redington said the level of force used to ward off a dog attack is up to an individual officer.
“We all love animals,” he said. “To me, it doesn’t matter if it’s a pit bull, border collie or poodle. If he’s attacking a police officer, the officer should defend himself.”
Tank was taken to a veterinary clinic, where he died.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 15th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal control, animals, attacked, bettendorf, collie, colorado, dog, dogs, iowa, killed, law, law enforcement, mix, owner, pets, pit bull, police, questionable, questions, shooting, tank, training
The Nevada Supreme Court — no stranger to such matters — will decide whether Onion, the Mastiff mix who killed his owner’s grandson on his first birthday, should live or die.
The court will hear arguments — 30 minutes worth, it has specified — on July 3 before deciding whether the city of Henderson should be allowed to kill the dog.
Another option has been offered by the Lexus Project, a New York-based organization that provides legal representation to dogs.
The Lexus Project intervened in the case and wants to gain custody of Onion, then send him to live at a secure sanctuary in Colorado.
The 120-pound mastiff-Rhodesian ridgeback mix killed Jeremiah Eskew-Shahan by biting him on the head the day of his first birthday party. Later that day, the owner turned Onion over to Henderson animal control officers, who planned to kill the dog in accordance with the city’s vicious-dog ordinance.
The city turned down the Lexus Project’s offer to take responsibility for the dog, and has fought its request to be awarded custody. Onion’s former owner now wants Lexus to have the dog, according to the Las Vegas Sun.
The court battle has been going on for a year now.
Last year, Clark County District Court Joanna Kishner ruled the city of Henderson could proceed with the dog’s execution.
The state Supreme Court issued a stay — it’s second in the case — until arguments could be heard.
Those will take place July 3 at 11:30 a.m.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 15th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 120 pounds, animal control, animals, colorado, death, defense, dog, dogs, euthanasia, execution, henderson, jeremiah, legal, lexus project, life, mastiff, mix, nevada, onion, pets, rhodesian, ridgeback, safety, sanctuary, supreme court, the lexus project
Dog lovers have been pushing for the measure in light of recent fatal pet shootings by law enforcement officers, some of which were widely viewed as questionable and might have been preventable if officers had more knowledge of dogs and were better able to determine when they posed a true threat.
During debate on the bill, lawmakers said 37 dogs have been shot by officers in Colorado over the last five years.
“The idea here is to keep officers and animals safe,” Hickenlooper said. The governor brought his dog, Skye — a shelter mutt who is part Akita, part bulldog, part chow chow – along for the bill signing.
Also on Monday, the Colorado legislature proclaimed shelter dogs and cats as the official state pets, approving a proposal presented by schoolchildren as part of a program to teach them about the legislative process.
The training legislation mandates that sheriffs’ offices and police departments offer three hours of online training on recognizing dog behaviors and employing non-lethal control methods, according to the Associated Press. The law also directs authorities to give dog owners the option to control or remove their dogs when officers respond to a call concerning a nonviolent crime. The training must be in place by Sept. 1, 2014.
The bill — believed to be the first of its kind – was unanimously approved.
(Photo: Brittany Moore with Ava, her German shepherd, who was shot and killed by an Erie, Colo., police officer in May 2011)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 14th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, ava, bill, colorado, dog, dogs, governor, killings, law, law enforcement, mandated, officers, online, pets, police, requirement, shootings, signed, three hours, training